Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Thursday, March 26, 2009
OPINION Two years ago Helen Clark's chances of succeeding Kofi Annan as the United Nations secretary-general were being talked up strongly by a global women's cheerleading squad.
Equality Now placed the then New Zealand prime minister prominently on a shortlist of 18 women it saw as contenders for the position. None of them made it, with Korea's Ban Ki-Moon having the necessary geography - it being Asia's "turn" - and some would say gender for the top job.
However, the likelihood of Miss Clark winding up in the front carriage of the UN train if not actually in the driver's seat has been discussed for some time among the Wellington cocktail set. Her supporters, and Miss Clark herself, have got their wish with confirmation expected of her appointment as the head of the UN's Development Programme, the third highest position with the international body behind only the secretary-general and his deputy. It is the most prestigious global appointment landed by a New Zealander since another former Labour prime minister, Mike Moore, was made director-general of the World Trade Organisation.
As such, it is a significant coup for New Zealand and signals again that small countries can play important roles on the world stage. More, it reflects the regard in which the former university lecturer is held, both for her intellect and managerial ability. Miss Clark will oversee a $9 billion budget said to be the largest of any UN agency. The UNDP's work centres on poverty reduction, HIV/Aids, democratic governance, energy and the environment, crisis prevention and recovery, human rights and empowerment of women. It focuses strongly on the least developed areas and seeks to build networks and relationships between rich and poor nations. It has offices and staff in more than 160 countries.
The UN is a soft target for its many critics, who can point with justification to its inability to take effective action during humanitarian crises or against regimes that breach accepted international codes of behaviour. The UNDP itself has been hit over the past two years by allegations of corrupt or inappropriate operations in North Korea. Suggestions that UNDP money destined for that country's poor was helping to prop up the regime of Kim Jong Il, and even underpinning his nuclear development programme, led to an urgent inquiry by Mr Ban and calls for significantly greater transparency from the UN and its various agencies. Time will tell whether Miss Clark's no-nonsense managerial style will be transformational.
Her Labour Party colleagues might have mixed feelings about their former leader's employment coup. Miss Clark remains a formidable presence in the House, even if she has been winding things back in order to allow her successor, Phil Goff, to become established. However, as simply the opposition MP for Mt Albert, her talents and experience are under-used, and few among the party will begrudge her this success.
Her opponents might be equally keen to see her bow out of New Zealand politics. Prime Minister John Key was quick to offer his government's support for her campaign for the position, and perhaps not only because he wanted her out of the debating chamber. He described her as a strong candidate when news of her shortlisting broke last month, and lobbied on her behalf. Miss Clark is expected to take up her new position this year, meaning a byelection in the Labour stronghold of Mt Albert. That in itself will be an interesting test of the two main parties' standings, perhaps a year or so after the general election.
Die wordt daarmee de eerste vrouw die op deze hoge VN-functie. Het afwijzen van Melkert als eerste man is een bittere pil voor ons land dat al sinds jaar en dag een van de grootste donoren is van de ontwikkelingsorganisatie van de Verenigde Naties. Om die reden dacht Nederland dan ook grote kans te maken. Vooral daar uit diplomatiek verkeer tussen de belangrijkste landen zoals de Verenigde Staten bleek dat geen enkel land tegen Melkert was.
De uiteindelijke beslissing is echter aan Ban Ki Moon en die had kennelijk behoefte aan een vrouw op deze hoge functie, die tot de hoogste in de internationale gemeenschap behoort.
Ook Melkert heeft de afgelopen maanden uitgebreid bij de verschillende landen gepleit voor zijn zaak. Zo zeer zelfs dat hij op volgens bronnen binnen de UNDP op enig moment is teruggefloten door de secretaris-generaal. Die vond het geen pas hebben dat een kandidaat, die al in functie is bij de UNDP, openlijk voor zichzelf solliciteert. Melkert, die volgens wel ingelichte bronnen, zeer teleurgesteld is, is tweede man bij de UNDP. Een baan die hij tot grote tevredenheid van de internationale gemeenschap vervult. Hij hervormde de organisatie in New York. Toen hij twee jaar geleden onder vuur kwam te liggen om vermeende betrokknheid bij gesjoemel met harde valuta in Noord Korea, slaagde hij door behendig manoeuvreren zijn naam te zuiveren. De beschuldigingen kwamen uit de koker van neo-conservatieve krachten in de voormalige regering Bush. Zij zagen Melkert als de kwade genius achter het wippen van de Wereldbank-directeur Wolfowitz.
(Novum/AP) - Ad Melkert lijkt te worden gepasseerd als nieuwe topman van het UNDP, de ontwikkelingsorganisatie van de Verenigde Naties. Momenteel is Melkert de tweede man bij het UNDP, maar Ban Ki-moon, secretaris-generaal van de VN, geeft volgens Nieuw-Zeelandse media de voorkeur aan de voormalige premier van Nieuw-Zeeland Helen Clark als opvolger van de Turk Kemal Dervis.
Naar verwachting wordt Clark vrijdag benoemd. De VN wil nog niet bevestigen dat de keuze op haar is gevallen.
Melkert is sinds 1 maart 2006 de tweede man van het UNDP, dat zich in 166 landen inzet om armoede te bestrijden, mensenrechten te bevorderen en het milieu te beschermen. Daarvoor werkte hij bij de Wereldbank in Washington. Melkert was bij de verkiezingen van 2002 lijsttrekker van de PvdA, dat toen een dramatische verkiezingsnederlaag leed.
De Telegraaf meldt donderdag op basis van anonieme bronnen dat Nederland grote diplomatieke druk heeft uitgeoefend om Melkert de functie te laten krijgen. Melkert zou zeer teleurgesteld zijn dat hij naast de baan heeft gegrepen. Ban Ki-moon zou echter een vrouw aan het hoofd van het UNDP hebben willen hebben. Daarom was Clark, die eerder al haar interesse uitsprak in de functie, de voornaamste kandidaat.
AUCKLAND (ANP) - De Verenigde Naties hebben hun besluit over de nieuwe baas van de VN-ontwikkelingsorganisatie UNDP uitgesteld. Volgens Nieuw-Zeelandse media zal pas vrijdagochtend plaatselijke tijd (donderdagavond Nederlandse tijd) bekend worden gemaakt dat de Nieuw-Zeelandse oud-premier Helen Clark de post gaat bekleden, die nu tijdelijk door de Nederlander Ad Melkert wordt uitgeoefend.
Nieuw-Zeelandse media hadden eerder al gemeld dat de benoeming rond is. De bekendmaking was voor donderdag plaatselijke tijd verwacht. Maar het bestuur van de UNDP en de Algemene Vergadering van de VN moeten zich nog uitspreken over de nieuwe baas, aldus een VN-woordvoerder. Clark was van 1999 tot 2008 regeringsleider.
NEW YORK - Ad Melkert heeft de strijd om het leiderschap van het UNDP verloren. Dat is woensdag bekend geworden. Melkert is sinds 2006 de tweede man van deze hulporganisatie van de VN. Hij had zich kandidaat gesteld voor de topfunctie, maar alles wijst erop dat Helen Clark, de 59-jarige oud-premier van Nieuw-Zeeland, de huidige directeur Kemal Dervis opvolgt.
Secretaris-generaal Ban Ki-moon van de VN heeft Clark nog niet formeel bemoemd, maar anonieme bronnen bevestigen dat Melkert aan het kortste eind heeft getrokken. Nederland – en Melkert zelf – lobbyden actief voor de prestigieuze functie. Maar er is besloten geen formeel bezwaar aan te tekenen.
De UNDP is de ontwikkelingsorganisatie van de VN en beheert een budget van 5 miljard euro.
De keus is gevallen op voormailig premier Helen Clark. Dat zal VN-chef Ban Ki-Moon volgens Nieuw-Zeelandse media vrijdagochtend plaatselijke tijd (donderdagavond Nederlandse tijd) bekendmaken.
Nieuw-Zeelandse media hadden eerder al gemeld dat de benoeming rond is. De bekendmaking was voor donderdag plaatselijke tijd verwacht.
Clark wordt de eerste vrouw op deze hoge VN-positie. Melkert werd in 2006 benoemd tot tweede man bij de organisatie.
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
It speaks volumes about the mindset of UN top management that Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has just delivered himself of his most articulate statement since he took office — and the gist of it was to insult America, the UN’s biggest sugar-daddy, as a “deadbeat.”
Ban was in Washington, following up a mutual back-patting session with President Obama by complaining to members of Congress that the U.S. is behind on its dues. Bear in mind that the assessed dues paid by the U.S., which come to 22% of Ban’s record-breaking core budget, are the biggest share paid by any of the UN’s 192 member states — and monumentally more than most. Bear in mind that those dues are just a small fraction of the billions upon billions that the U.S. actually forks over every year to the UN in the form of additional funds — including voluntary contributions, support for UN agencies, special programs, donations to emergency appeals, peacekeeping and whatnot. Bear in mind that while American taxpayers have been tightening their belts, the UN has been demanding and spending their money at record-breaking rates.
Plus, to keep Ban comfortable as he formulates his complaints, America provides the frill of lavish living quarters in midtown Manhattan for the tax-exempt Ban Ki-Moon himself. Then there’s the landmark UN headquarters now undergoing an extravagant $2 billion renovation for which America taxpayers are likely to foot most of the bill (granted, that doesn’t do much for the cause of world poverty, but it certainly does enhance the ample comforts of the UN bureaucracy — Ban included — in New York).
But OK, that’s the entitlement mentality for you. The real problem is how the UN handles — or mishandles — the torrent of American money it already enjoys every year. There is no transparency, there is almost no accountability. For hours of fun, check out Ban Ki-Moon’s vaunted “public disclosure” initiative — in which top UN officials are invited to disclose their own finances to the public. Even the most forthcoming are too generic to tell you much. But the most entertaining cases are those of UN officials whose “disclosure” consists of ticking a box which says they are exercising their option not to disclose anything except their refusal to disclose. For instance, the deputy head of UNICEF, Omar Abdi; or Ban’s special adviser (Kofi Annan’s former chief of staff, who shredded years worth of executive suite documents during the Oil-for-Food investigations) Iqbal Riza.
If you actually try to figure out the extent of the UN’s system-wide budget, you will quickly discover that in the maze of inter-agency fees, contributions, opaque programs, awol inventories, bizarre procurement arrangements, haze of consultancy contracts, plethora of per diems, tardy and vague public audits, erratic and secret internal audits, and extra-budgetary add-ons, doo-dads, whistles and peace bells, there is for all practical purposes no way to do it. The best estimate we’ve had in recent years was a statement from Kofi Annan in 2006 that the system-wide budget came to about $20 billion. America pays the biggest share — roughly one-quarter of all that dosh.
What does the UN deliver in return?
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen put out a press release on Ban’s deadbeat remark, which pretty well sums up the scene. Excerpts here:
“Last year, American taxpayers ponied up nearly $5 billion for the UN system. The U.S. is by far the world’s largest donor to the UN. The U.S. provides other assistance for peacekeeping operations. The U.S. responds to emergency appeals. We are always on deck.
“Yet, the head of the UN comes to Congress and scolds us for not doing enough? He demands yet more money from us while making little progress in cleaning up the badly-broken UN?
“The UN’s ineffectiveness is not from a lack of cash, but the result of a corrupt system which wastes money and apologizes for dictatorships.
“The UN has been hijacked by a rogues’ gallery that uses our funds to undermine peace and security. Dictatorships use the Human Rights Council and Durban 2 conference process to restrict universal freedoms and protect extremists. The UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) aids violent Islamists and partners with money-laundering banks under U.S. sanctions or under U.S. investigation for financing Islamist militants. The UN Development Program (UNDP) pays the legal fees of its corrupt officials but refuses to protect whistleblowers.
“While Iran, Syria, and North Korea endanger the entire world, the UN is pre-occupied with condemning democratic states like the U.S. and Israel.”
To this, we might add the news item that in the rigged “election” process for choosing the president of the UN General Assembly, it looks like a done deal that the winner for 2009-2010 will be Libya (I’m not kidding … more in my Forbes.com column this week on “The U.N.’s Year of Libya“). On this, Ban has uttered not a word of dismay.
There’s a lot of scope here for enhancing chances of world peace and progress simply by cutting off money for the UN. Deadbeats of the world, unite!
While many are struggling to fend off the climate-change hysterics, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has been helpfully reminding us that the UN would love to offer its services as the command center for a grand plan to control the weather of the entire planet.
He’s got to be kidding. This is the same UN you shouldn’t leave alone with your kid’s piggybank. This is the UN that won’t account for its own money (well, actually, it won’t account for your money), covered up graft during seven years of Oil-for-Food, didn’t notice the bribe shop in its own procurement department, had a now-convicted money-launderer as head of the budget oversight committee, and has yet to explain why UN Development Program officials were storing counterfeit $100 bills in their Pyongyang office safe.
But the UN has spotted a way to squeeze money out of traffic in hype and hot air. Having laid the groundwork — courtesy of Maurice Strong and his pals — for the usual arrangements of penalizing the U.S. while rewarding dictators, the UN is now positioning itself to preside as a global clearing house for trade in carbon dioxide emission offsets.
Hey, why stop there? There’s more to the world climate than just the weather — there’s also a financial environment, political environment, and even a moral ethos, in which carbon dioxide is the least of the vapors. How about a UN program to trade corruption offsets? Despotism offsets?
By Bill Varner
March 25 (Bloomberg) -- Former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark will be named today as the next administrator of the United Nations Development Program by Secretary-General Ban Ki- moon, according to a UN official.
Clark, who lost the 2008 general election after nine years as prime minister, will be approved by the agency’s board and then by the UN General Assembly, according to the official, who spoke on condition of not being identified before Ban makes the announcement.
New Zealand’s National Party defeated Clark’s Labour Party in a Nov. 8 election, with former Merrill Lynch & Co. trader John Key ending her tenure as prime minister after the economy fell into recession. Clark was seeking to become the first Labour Party leader to win four elections after winning power in 1999. She has led the party since 1993.
The UNDP’s annual budget of more than $1 billion is based on voluntary contributions. It has projects in 165 nations.
The agency’s administrator is one of the UN’s highest ranked officials after the secretary-general and deputy secretary-general. Clark’s priority will be achieving the UN’s Millennium Development Goals, which include halving world poverty and hunger by 2015.
The main television and radio networks said Clark, prime minister from 1999 until 2008, would be named by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon within the coming day.
"The selection process is very close to reaching its conclusion but the UN Secretary General has not yet made his preference public," a spokesman for Clark told the NZ Press Association.
Clark, whose nine-year old centre-left Labour-led government was ousted in last November's election, had been backed for the post by the new National-led government. She quit as head of the party after the election loss.
Clark was said to have emerged as the favoured candidate after major donors put their support behind her.
The UNDP is the U.N.'s agency global development network, providing training, advice, and support for developing countries.
The UNDP Administrator is the third highest post in the United Nations.
Clark, 59, a former political studies lecturer with a passion for mountaineering, has been a member of parliament since 1981 and was New Zealand's first elected female leader.
She has had a reputation as a passionless intellectual, but has won respect for calm demeanour and formidable intellect.
Under her leadership New Zealand charted a more independent foreign policy, although it improved relations with the United States, ruptured since the mid-1980s as a result of New Zealand's anti-nuclear policy.
She opposed the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, but commited New Zealand special forces to fight in Afghanistan. (Reporting by Gyles Beckford; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani)
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Scandal-scarred Satyam generated thousands of fake customer invoices as part of a scam to falsely inflate revenue and profits, according to a report.
India's Economic Times, citing sources close to India's Central Bureau of Investigation, said the agency has retrieved more than 7,000 fake invoices and numerous other spurious documents over the past several weeks.
More Global CIO InsightsWhite PapersBest Practices for Leveraging Business Analytics in Today’s and Tomorrow’s Insurance Sector Reducing the Cost of AML Compliance The upshot: The total size of Satyam's deception is now approaching $2 billion, according to the paper. Investigators originally put the number significantly below that based on statements from Satyam officials.
On Jan. 7, Satyam chairman Ramalinga Raju admitted falsifying the company's cash position by as much as $1 billion while overstating quarterly earnings and revenue by up to 28%. Satyam may also have faked employee numbers and other data. Raju tendered his resignation and has since been arrested and jailed.
He's now in the custody of CBI, India's version of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Other Satyam officers, and two employees of PricewaterhouseCoopers India, also have been detained in connection with the case.
Increasingly nervous Satyam customers are looking for alternatives in case the outsourcer is unable to restore internal stability or find a buyer with pockets deep enough to see the Indian company through its current crisis.
The latest Satyam customer to consider alternatives is Selective Insurance Co., the 47th largest property and casualty insurance company in the United States. Selective has outsourced about a quarter of its IT staffing requirements to Satyam, but it may be looking for other arrangements in light of Satyam's woes.
"We believe we would be able to manage an efficient transition to a new vendor and not experience a significant negative impact to our operations in the event that we no longer retain Satyam in their current capacity due to the financial issues they are currently experiencing," Selective said in papers filed Feb. 27 with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Selective Insurance is but the latest in a growing list of Satyam customers that may head for the exit.
Gadget maker SanDisk recently warned investors that Satyam's troubles have put its business operations at risk.
Krishan Batra - the SATYAM insider at UNDP inflated the number of SATYAM Employees contracted by the organization
Investigators into the Satyam fraud have reportedly said that they now believe the amount involved to be closer to $2 billion, rather than the $1 billion originally that chairman Ramalinga Raju had actually confessed to stealing. They also say that they have uncovered more than 7,000 fake customer invoices and other documents related to the fraud.
Given the sheer level of the fraud, and the complex web of companies that appear to have been used to syphon off funds from Satyam, its a wonder no-one thought to question the amount that Raju admitted to taking before now - and the assertion that his family didn’t benefit from the fraud looks laughable, if only this were a laughing matter.
The news couldn’t have come at a worse time for Satyam, as it moves into the next stage of trying to find a buyer to rescue it. The company is due to shortlist bidders from six that have so far registered, and it desperately needs to get the stability of a new majority shareholder to help stabilize it. Already more customers, including the US Selective Insurance Group, have stated their intention to ditch Satyam. The Economic Times reports that 46 Satyam customers including Applied Materials, Kansas State Bank, Telstra, Emerson, Nissan, State Farm Insurance and Sony have all either dropped Satyam or are in the process of moving work elsewhere.
The full extent of this fraud needs to be uncovered, particularly the role of the auditors, and the people responsible must be punished. But it does seem that Satyam as an ongoing concern viable business, and the interest of so many bidders would seem to suggest it’s seen as viable, is becoming irreversibly damaged by these revelations. For buyers to continue with the bidding process when the extent of the fraud is only just becoming apparent would seem to be irresponsible - yet unless Satyam gets some sort of stability, the list of ex-customers is just going to get longer.
The Indian government has so far kept a light touch on the rescue process - now would seem to be the time for it to step in and provide more support and stability to Satyam, to safeguard jobs and the reputation of the outsourcing industry.
In a report filed with Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) last month, Branchville, New Jersey-based insurer said that Satyam accounts for almost a quarter of the company’s IT work.
“We believe we would be able to manage an efficient transition to a new vendor and not experience a significant negative impact to our in the event that we no longer retain Satyam in their current capacity due to the financial issues they are currently experiencing,” the company said in its regulatory filing.
As reported by ET recently, around 46 customers have either completely exited, or are in the process of moving their outsourcing contracts from Satyam to rival tech firms such as IBM, TCS, Wipro, Infosys and Accenture.
Potential bidders for Satyam such as Tech Mahindra, L&T, Spice and several private equity firms are readying their strategy for taking over a majority stake in Satyam, and their financial bids will depend a lot upon the amount of business Satyam has from around 695 existing customers, last reported during company s financial results for quarter ended September last year.
By ROMIT GUHA and DEEPALI GUPTA
MUMBAI -- The United Nations has said it has decided to have "no further dealings" with Satyam Computer Services Ltd., becoming the second client known to have canceled its outsourcing contracts with the Indian software exporter.
"Throughout the system, the various bodies of the UN will wrap up the contracts. The details of that may need some fine-tuning, it may need to be worked out in the coming months," the UN's associate spokesperson said at a press conference in New York on Monday. The transcript of the briefing was seen by Dow Jones Newswires Tuesday.
A Satyam spokeswoman declined to comment.
Hyderabad-based Satyam, once India's fourth-largest software exporter by revenue, has been in turmoil after its founder B. Ramalinga Raju revealed in January he overstated its profits over several years and created a fictitious cash balance of more than $1 billion. It is now scouting for a buyer who will infuse funds and help revive the firm.
Since the fraud was revealed, one of the main tasks of the new government-appointed board at Satyam has been to retain clients. U.S. State Farm Insurance is the only company known to have terminated its outsourcing contract with Satyam.
Satyam Chairman Kiran Karnik had said in January that the company has received notices for terminating technology outsourcing contracts from two clients, without giving details.
Satyam's clients include several Fortune 500 companies such as General Electric Co., General Motors Corp., Nissan Motor Co., Applied Materials Inc. and Citigroup Inc. Some of its clients in the Asia-Pacific region include Telstra Corp., National Australia Bank Ltd. and Qantas Airways Ltd.
A Mumbai-based analyst, who asked not to be named, said Satyam's UN contract was "miniscule" and that the cancellation wouldn't have "any material impact" on the company's revenue, but could have "sentimental impact."
Indian software exporters' revenue growth has been slowing as their global clients - under pressure to cut costs - have reduced spending on information technology.
"The rate of growth (for the industry)...is half of what it used to be in the past few years" - around 20% this year compared with 40% in the past, according to a letter from the company to new hires. "Added to this was an unprecedented set of events in the organization over the past few weeks."
The company has, therefore, decided to defer until further notice the joining dates of about 9,000 fresh graduates to whom it had offered jobs, according to the letter, seen by Dow Jones Newswires Tuesday.
"This scenario, combined with the continuing volatility in the business environment, necessitates that we optimize available resources internally and critically reexamine additional requirements on an ongoing, quarterly basis," the letter, dated March 23, said.
Satyam, which has more than 50,000 employees, and its Indian rivals have almost stopped hiring experienced staff in a bid to reduce costs and protect operating margins.
They are mostly recruiting fresh graduates who are hired at much lower salaries, but the global situation has forced them to curtail even such hiring.
"While unfortunate, it has also been unavoidable," said the letter from Satyam's global head of human resources, S. V. Krishnan. The decision was taken after "extensive deliberations and only after all other practical options were exhausted," it added.
A Satyam spokeswoman declined to comment on the letter.
The graduates were to join the company from late December 2008 to early 2009, a person familiar with the matter told Dow Jones Newswires, asking not to be named.
"The offer letters were given during December 2007 to June 2008," the person said.
Former Prime Minister Helen Ms Clark is in the running for a top United Nations job.
Two weeks ago 3 News reported she was on a short-list of three for the post of “Director Of The UN’s Development Programme” – the number three spot in the UN’s hierarchy.
An appointment is expected in the next month but Prime Minister John Key says he has heard nothing yet – just rumours.
“It is a decision for Ban Ki Moon,” says Mr Key, referring to the UN’s Secretary General, who is also a Korean.
Ms Clark is said to have the support of the Koreans, after meeting with their President last week, and they are lobbying the Secretary General for her appointment.
Ms Clark has remained tight-lipped about the possibility.
“There’s a process to follow and it’s competitive,” she says.
Mr Key is graciously admitting his former rival is talented and has international support.
“She is obviously held in high regard and is a woman with many talents,” he says.
One of those in the final three is an American but it is understood the American administration has no objections to Ms Clark taking the role – something that is regarded as crucial.
Ms Clark is currently in Germany and speaking to an international conference.
But all the diplomatic circles are buzzing that Ms Clark is the favoured candidate and an announcement is not far off.
For now though – Ms Clark, the Labour Party and even Mr Key do not want to blow her trumpet too soon.